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LIVE UPDATES: Gov. Murphy criticizes Atlantic County surrogate's Facebook post

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Gov. Phil Murphy on Saturday called a social media post from an Atlantic County official saying the state should reopen immediately without restrictions "irresponsible."

In a post on his Facebook page, county Surrogate James Curcio said county officials need to “sound the alarm.”

“Trust American freedom ingenuity and the US Constitution,” he said in the post. “Untie the hands of the Private Sector so it can rescue NJ from this nightmare.”

Curcio did not respond to a request for comment.

After reading the post during his Saturday media briefing, Murphy said if the state were to restart the economy in full now, "there will be blood on our hands."

“I would just say this, folks. That is irresponsible. … I want to make sure folks understand that. This is literally life and death, and what we need now is responsible leadership. We do not need irresponsible leadership," Murphy said. “Anybody out there who thinks that ‘Let’s just open the place up’ will lead to lower infections, lower hospitalizations and lower fatalities is being completely, utterly irresponsible.”

State officials on Saturday said the number of positive cases of COVID-19 in New Jersey has increased by 3,026, bringing the total to 81,420. There have been 231 additional deaths, bringing the state total to 4,070. Atlantic County has reported 392 cases, 19 deaths and 71 recovered. Cape May County has reported 204 cases, with 45 designated as off quarantine and 13 deaths. Cumberland County has reported 269 cases and three deaths.  

Curcio's comments come at the tail end of a week when, nationally, officials began discussing and unveiling plans to reintroduce aspects of pre-pandemic normalcy, though health officials continue to urge caution for fear of a fresh surge in cases. Meanwhile, protests against stay-at-home orders organized by small-government groups and Trump supporters were planned for Saturday in several cities after the president urged supporters to “liberate” three states led by Democratic governors. 

Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson said Curcio was successful in getting the governor's attention and sparking that same debate here.

"South Jersey is far different than North Jersey," Levinson said. "This is not a one-size-fits-all state. As county executive, to treat us down here exactly the same as North Jersey should be debated."

Levinson said he understands the frustration Curcio is expressing. He doesn't agree that unrestricted opening right now is the solution but does urge the governor to take another look at restrictions that he feels may not fit this part of the state with a less dense population.

"What's the thought process of the governor leaving the boardwalk open but not our parks?" Levinson asked. " It would be much easier to distance yourself at a park."

"If you want to criticize Curcio's comments, I think you can criticize the policy at the same time," Levinson added. "What he's done is open it up for debate, and debate is healthy." 

County Freeholder Chairman Frank Formica said Curcio's Facebook post demonstrates the level of frustration felt in the county.

"In one fell swoop, 26,000 people lost their jobs when those casinos closed," Formica said. "He probably thinks better of what he should have said, but I'm sure he was just frustrated."

Formica said the governor is doing the best he can, but the idea of an indefinite shutdown is frightening to people.

"We want to get everybody back working as soon as it's safely possible," Formica said. "We have to work on a plan. We don't want the damage to last any longer than it has to."

Curcio, 59, of Hammonton, announced earlier this year he will seek a third term as Atlantic County surrogate. The Republican was elected in 2010 and re-elected in 2015.

The main functions of the surrogate are to probate wills and appoint administrators of estates, according to the Surrogate's Office website.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

___

The number of positive cases of COVID-19 in New Jersey has increased by 3,026, bringing the total to 81,420, state officials said Saturday. There have been 231 additional deaths, bringing the state total to 4,070.

“We are flattening the curve,” Murphy said. “This is a credit to each and every one of you who has taken to heart our aggressive social distancing measures and continue to do your part.”

Murphy debuted a set of graphs that show the numbers of new cases and hospitalizations over the last three weeks as well as another showing the rate of people being discharged from hospitals is now greater than the number of new hospitalizations, saying “so far, so good, but we cannot let up.”

There are 7,718 people hospitalized across the state, including 2,024 in intensive care and 1,641 on ventilators, Murphy said. Between 10 p.m. Thursday and 10 p.m. Friday, 814 residents were discharged from hospitals.

Cape May County has reported 204 cases, with 45 designated as off quarantine and 13 deaths.

Cumberland County has reported 269 cases and three deaths.

So far, Atlantic County has reported 392 cases, 19 deaths and 71 recovered. Included in the totals are 22 new cases that Atlantic County officials announced Saturday.

They include six Hammonton residents, three Linwood residents and two residents each from Egg Harbor Township, Hamilton Township and Pleasantville, Gilmore said. Absecon, Brigantine, Buena, Galloway, Northfield, Somers Point and Ventnor each had one new positive case. An 84-year old Egg Harbor Township woman with underlying health conditions has become the county’s latest fatality attributed to the new coronavirus.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

Also during the briefing, Murphy dispelled the idea that the new coronavirus isn’t as virulent as the seasonal flu.

The number of fatalities in the state from COVID-19 in the past six weeks is greater than the number of people who succumbed to the flu over the past three flu seasons combined, he said. In addition, the hospitalization rate for the new coronavirus is far greater than what it is for the flu; the general hospitalization rate for the flu is about one-tenth of 1% of cases, but for the new coronavirus, it’s about 10%.

“This is a pandemic the likes of which we haven’t seen in a century,” he said.

He also featured a Cumberland County boy who asked his community to donate boxes of pasta and jars of sauce for his 12th birthday, which he plans to donate to the Vineland Soup Kitchen.

Murphy is scheduled to tour the field medical station at the Atlantic City Convention Center on Tuesday morning.

Other state officials will join him for the tour, as well as Matt Doherty, executive director of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority.

There will be no livestreamed briefing Sunday, but numbers of cases and fatalities will be distributed through a news release. Monday’s briefing is scheduled for 2 p.m.

Atlantic City is getting two COVID-19 testing sites, according to Mayor Marty Small Sr. 

A drive-thru testing site at Bader Field and a walk-up location in the Showboat Hotel Atlantic City surface parking lot could be operational beginning the week of April 27, Small said. Find out more here.

The Community FoodBank of New Jersey is partnering with Unite Here Local 54 Wednesday to provide food to casino workers.

There will be a drive-thru food distribution from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Shore Mall, 6725 Black Horse Pike, Egg Harbor Township

Unite Here Local 54 represents nearly 10,000 employees in the casino industry.

An Atlantic City distillery has produced 30,000 bottles of hand sanitizer that will be distributed to Wells Fargo branches all over the country.

Earlier this week, Little Water Distillery finished its first order for the bank, producing 20,000 16-ounce and 10,000 8-ounce bottles of sanitizer to be shipped to the distributing center in North Carolina, according to a news release from Wells Fargo.

“From there, the order will then be spread across the entire United States to Wells Fargo for the 270,000 employees working in the banks, offices, service centers, trading floors and contact centers to maintain necessary workplace safety during COVID-19,” according to the release.

Cape May County Prosecutor Jeffrey Sutherland put out a release Saturday clarifying campground usage. All campgrounds are closed with the following exceptions:

  • People who have year-round residential leases and use the campground as their permanent address; and 
  • Campground where individuals own their site and have a deed. Only the owners and their immediate family may occupy the site.

Excepted campgrounds can not be used for short-term rentals. Mobile home parks where residents have yearly leases do not qualify as campgrounds and are thus not subject to any restrictions.

The New Jersey State Police charged Franklin Moore, 62, of Cape May Court House with possession of heroin, DWI, motor vehicle violations and violating the emergency orders in Port Norris Friday. Moore was in a motor vehicle accident with heroin in the vehicle. He was unresponsive when police arrived. He was treated and charged.

NJ Transit announced Saturday that Senior Vice President & General Manager of Rail Operations, Raymond P. Kenny, passed away from COVID-19-related complications.

"Ray's reputation and experience in the industry are unparalleled," NJ Transit President & CEO Kevin Corbett said. "The leadership and incredible wealth of railroad knowledge Ray brought with him has truly made a positive impact on our organization. On behalf of everyone at NJ Transit, our thoughts and prayers are with Ray's family and friends at this difficult time."

Governor Murphy along with the governors of New York and Connecticut announced the alignment of their state policies regarding marinas and boat yards during the COVID-19 crisis.

Marinas, boatyards and marine manufacturers will be allowed to open as long as strict social distancing and sanitization protocols are observed. Restaurants on site will be allowed to sell takeout and delivery food, but chartered boat services and rentals will not be allowed.

“We’ve committed to working with our regional partners throughout this crisis to align our policies when and where appropriate,” Governor Murphy said. “A unified approach is the most effective way to alleviate confusion for the residents of our states during the ongoing public health emergency.”

Here’s where to get tested for COVID-19 in South Jersey

Contact: 609-272-7241

mbilinski@pressofac.com

Twitter @ACPressMollyB

Source: State of New Jersey Department of Health

Staff Writer

My beat is public safety, following police and crime. I started in January 2018 here at the Press covering Egg Harbor and Galloway townships. Before that, I worked at the Reading Eagle in Reading, Pa., covering crime and writing obituaries.

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